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California State University History of Christopher Columbus Discussion

You’ve probably heard it said, “History is always changing” and, sure, there’s constantly new information being discovered.  But perhaps it’s also because our values and how we see the world is always changing.  Christopher Columbus, for instance, was once revered as “the great explorer who discovered America.”  We now regard him as a brutal guy who was wrong about almost everything and, in fact, we’re taking away his holiday and changing it to Indigenous Peoples Day.  This video examines our love/hate relationship with Christopher Columbus but challenges the more contemporary view of Columbus as a barbarian and a fool suggesting this is too dismissive and the truth might lie somewhere in between. 


After watching the video below, submit an informal response in the reply box below that addresses the following three criteria:

  1. Provide some examples of what he says about Columbus that contrasts with what you’ve been taught.
  2. Mention some examples that stood out to you suggesting the more contemporary narrative of Columbus simply being a monster and an idiot might be inaccurate.
  3. Discuss what he is saying, generally, about how we should examine history.

Student 1

1. One of the things I learned from the video that contrasts with that I have been taught was the way in which Columbus viewed the word. Throughout all books and materials from past history classes that I’ve had, all have said something along the lines of Columbus believing the world was round or that he was the person that inspired all others to believe this. However, in the video, it is said that he suspected the world to be almost pear-like and nipple shaped at the top. Another interesting thing that differed from what I was taught was how Columbus was not actually the cause of natives dying off from disease.
2. I think the biggest reason why Columbus being portrayed as a monster is inaccurate is because of how fabricated his past seems to be. The video shows how historians took small bits and phrases from what Columbus was saying to suit their claims instead of seeing it as a whole or understanding it the way it was meant to be. His actions and words have been taken out of context which has led to the reason people view Columbus as they do now.
3. The person in the video is more or less trying to say that we should view the whole picture in a part of history instead of reading into all these small little details and using that to characterize people.

Student 2

  1. As mentioned in the video I was taught Christopher Columbus believed he was headed towards Asia instead of America and had no sense of direction. This led to the Europeans believing they were Indians instead of native Americans. Another thing I learned is Columbus had seen the native Americans as slaves never as saying they were good people and can eventually work for either the king or the Europeans.
  2. An example that stood out to me was how people have misinterpreted Christopher Columbus’s and have constructed an idea as to Columbus being a monster. Many people who have translated his letter have mistaken his wording for inaccurate statements like wanting to take the Native American to Europe as slaves and not as servants. Another example would be the map that Columbus used on his voyage and how it had led him to America instead of Asia. In the end we have seen he was following the map everyone would typically use during the 1600 and was not in the wrong.
  3. He is saying that us as learners should look more into detail and carefully look through the data before being misleading. This can allow us to interpret things differently and understand what really happened. 


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